Rice Planters honoring Atkinson

Bert Atkinson chips to the green on his way to winning the first of back-to-back Rice Planters Amateur titles in 1997.

Bert Atkinson hasn’t played in all 41 Rice Planters Amateur golf tournaments, but the 55-year-old, two-time champion will be making his 28th consecutive start Wednesday at Snee Farm Country Club.

This year the Rice Planters tournament committee is honoring Atkinson with the introduction of the Atkinson Cup, a tournament within the tournament.

The Atkinson Cup will go to the three-person college team that finishes with the lowest cumulative score after the first three rounds (54 holes) of the 72-hole tournament. There are 12 college teams competing for the inaugural Cup.

“It’s a very nice honor,” said Atkinson, who in January was inducted into the South Carolina Golf Hall of Fame.

Atkinson became the tournament’s only back-to-back winner when he captured the 1997 and 1998 Rice Planters.

“At the time I was playing some really good golf,” said Atkinson, who has won seven Charleston City Amateurs, numerous state and regional titles and three times was the South Carolina Golf Association player of the year.

“Winning the Rice Planters put me in the top five in the U.S. I look back on that with pride. The Rice Planters had a strong, national-type field and it still has a good field.”

Indeed, one of the players Atkinson bested on the way to winning his second Rice Planters was 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman, who tied for 13th in the 1998 Rice Planters.

Ninety-three golfers are scheduled to start in this year’s tournament, including the past two champions. Clemson golfer Thomas Bradshaw beat Scott Harvey of Greensboro, N.C., by one shot to win last year’s title, in the process setting a new tournament record of 20-under-par 268. Duke golfer Austin Cody of North Charleston won the 2011 Rice Planters and tied the tournament record with a score of 270.

Tee times each day begin at 8 a.m., with the field cut to the low 54 and ties for Saturday’s final round.